The National Keratoconus Foundation has named NASCAR driver Joey Gase as Ambassador.
The National Keratoconus Foundation (NKCF) has named NASCAR driver Joey Gase as ambassador.
Gase, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, discovered his lifelong passion when he won the first of many Go-Kart races at age 8. By 18, Joey had been signed as a professional driver and was competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Today, Joey is driver and co-owner of Emerling-Gase Motorsports and has competed in more than 350 NASCAR events.
The NKCF is the world’s oldest and largest organization dedicated to increasing awareness of keratoconus (KC), a bilateral eye disease characterized by progressive thinning and bulging of the cornea which results in vision impairment.
KC most commonly begins in the teenage years and stabilizes in middle age. Currently, there is no cure for keratoconus, though progression of the disease can be slowed or halted. In the most severe cases, a corneal transplant may be needed to improve vision.
Visual acuity for NASCAR drivers can be no worse than 20/40. Gase had worn glasses and contact lenses for vision correction for most of his life, but 3 years ago, he felt his vision was diminishing and visited his eye doctor. He was diagnosed with keratoconus.
Conversations with the National Keratoconus Foundation led Gase to the Ophthalmology Department at the University of Iowa Medical Center where he was fit with impression-molded, custom contact lenses (EyeFitPRO) that improved his vision by compensating for the irregular shape of his cornea. With his vision improved to 20/10, Gase is more assured in his role as driver/owner.
“In racing, you need to have confidence in your vision. Driving 200 mph around a 2.5 mile track, I need to clearly see the imprints, grooves and marks, as well as any debris on the track.” Gase said.
“And, like any businessman, I spend hours each day in front of the computer. I am now able to see the screen clearly and don’t experience headaches as I did in the past.”
Now based in North Carolina, Gase and his wife Caitlin have twin sons, Carson and Jace. Gase has devoted significant effort to promoting organ, tissue, and eye donation and has been recognized by various organ procurement organizations for his charitable work. He is happy to add keratoconus awareness to his list of causes.
Mary Prudden, executive director of NKCF, was honored to welcome Gase as an ambassador for the organization.
“[Gase]’s history is like so many other individuals with keratoconus. He grew up believing he just had ‘bad’ eyesight when in fact he had a condition where his cornea was changing shape and his vision was becoming impaired.”
Prudden added, “Because of [Gase]’s history with transplant agencies, he is happy to spread the word that early detection and intervention can save eyesight and eliminate the need for a corneal transplant. [His] success as a NASCAR driver should be an inspiration to others who find that keratoconus is getting in the way of achieving their career goals.”
About National Keratoconus Foundation: NKCF is an outreach program of the Department of Ophthalmology at University of California, Irvine. Since 1986, NKCF has educated patients and the public about keratoconus, an eye disease that causes the cornea to become weak and change shape, leading to reduced vision. To learn more, visit https://nkcf.org/
About Emerling-Gase Motorsports: In 2021, owner-driver Joey Gase joined forces with driver Patrick Emerling to form Emerling-Gase Motorsports. The team fields two cars, #35 and #53 full time on the NASCAR Xfinity Series circuit. To learn more about Joey Gase, visit https://www.joeygaseracing.com/.